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Minutes: Sutton, Harris settle in

Posted Sep 8, 2009

At left, Ra'Shon "Sunny" Harris runs at the Combine. At right, Tyrell Sutton returns a kickoff for the Packers this preseason. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)


CHARLOTTE -- Neither Tyrell Sutton nor Ra'Shon Harris expected to be in the Carolina Panthers' locker room Tuesday. But they had considered the general idea of being somewhere other than Green Bay or Pittsbugh -- the two respective cities in which the rookies found themselves last weekend, wondering whether their names would be on the Packers' and Steelers' cut lists.

"It's a business, so you've just got to roll with the punches," said Sutton, who led the Packers in yards from scrimmage and all-purpose yardage this summer. "I really didn't go into it with any expectations, but I thought at the very least I would be on the practice squad. But things happen."

Harris had the same expectation after the Steelers waived him on Saturday -- that is, until they reached him a day later.

"They called me up and said, 'You're going to Carolina,' and I (replied), 'Oh-kay,'" Harris said. "I was ready to sign on (the Steelers') practice squad. But it's a great opportunity. I'm very excited. I think every player wants to get a chance to play, and it was just my chance."

It was the Steelers who informed Harris of his new destination, not the Panthers, because Harris had changed his cell phone number too late to be included in the league's player directory. Carolina had the wrong number, but in adding the sixth-round pick from Oregon, the team thinks it has the right man to bolster its interior defensive-line depth.

Like Louis Leonard, for whom the Panthers traded last week, Harris must adjust from a 3-4 scheme to the Panthers' 4-3. Unlike Leonard, Harris has recent experience in it, working at defensive tackle in Oregon's 4-3 last year.

"(The transition) is very tough, but one thing different about me vs. (Leonard) is that he played there for a few years. I've just been playing the 3-4 for six months," Harris said. "So I've got to train my body and my mind to get back to what I'm used to. But I think it'll go well."

The adjustment is a little less daunting for Sutton, befitting the nature of his position. But he must nevertheless absorb different terminology than he used in Green Bay -- and must get up to speed in a system his teammates have had at least an offseason to digest. Sutton, meanwhile, will start with a sensible bite.

"I'm not going to get the entire playbook, just the game plan," Sutton said. "It's too much to try to learn a dictionary in a weekend, so they'll just give me the shortened version of it.

"It's all about getting acclimated to the system. As soon as I get a playbook, I'm going to be studying it day in and day out, trying to learn from DeAngelo (Williams) and (Jonathan) Stewart and everybody in the room."

Studying would be the most productive way for Sutton and Harris to spend their time since there's little else in front of them right now. They're settled in hotels, epitomizing the transient existence that can greet rookies trying to establish their places in the NFL.

"I travel real light. I had a few suitcases," Harris said. "I was already just living out of suitcases in a hotel anyway, so you just keep yourself packed. You never know what's going to happen, so you travel light."

Each wants to unpack and stay a while in Charlotte. But being ready to move proved helpful this weekend, when each earned a somewhat unexpected passage to a 53-man roster.

AS FOR HARRIS, his given name is Ra'Shon, but most call him "Sunny," and, yes, that is the correct spelling.

"I spell it with a 'U,'" Harris said. "Everybody else spells it with an 'O.' ... It's just a nickname I got when I was growing up. My family started calling me it, then the neighborhood, then my teachers, then it just followed me."

Its origin was in a misheard lyric when he was three years old.

"The Isley Brothers had a song, 'Who's That Lady?' but in my mind, I thought they said, 'Ooooh, sunny baby,'" Harris said. "It just went from there. I was always big, so at first it was 'Sunny Baby,' but then I had to drop the 'baby.'"

SPLIT SECONDS: Sutton will wear jersey number 22, while Harris will brandish No. 77 ... Three Panthers on the 53-man roster changed their numbers from the preseason: defensive end Hilee Taylor (from 66 to 97), defensive tackle Louis Leonard (from 97 to 94) and linebacker Dan Connor (from 57 to 55). This is Connor's second number change in as many seasons; he went from No. 44 to 55 last year ... New practice-squad arrivals Dustin Fry and Marcus Walker will wear jersey numbers 62 and 24, respectively ... The Panthers begin their typical weekly schedule Wednesday, returning to the practice field for the first time in a week.